Hamas has licked its wounds and is ready for a new armed conflict with Israel, said a senior defense official on Friday. Eighteen months after Operation Protective Edge, in which the IDF took out many of Hamas’s weapons arsenals and destroyed a number of its tunnels, the terror group which runs the Gaza Strip is back on its feet, said the official.
“Hamas in Gaza has recovered, and [its military wing] is ready to confront Israel again if it is asked to do so,” the official told leaders of local Gaza border communities, according to Ynet. “They have restored their tunnels, rocket firing systems, intelligence gathering operations and observation posts.”
According to various reports, Hamas has rebuilt its complex system of terror tunnels, several of which reach below the border into Israel. The IDF destroyed approximately 30 tunnels, estimated to constitute one-third of the network, during Operation Protective Edge, when militants would use them to ambush IDF forces and civilians.
The official added that Israeli security forces do not believe that Hamas is actively seeking a new war with Israel. The group is now occupied with cracking down on small Salafist groups which attempt to raise tensions with Israel by agitating on the Gaza border. Two weeks ago, a terror cell was caught planting an explosive device along the border fence.
Despite these reports, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh insisted on Saturday that the group is not preparing for a new war – though it is prepared if it should have to fight one. While speaking at a ceremony to honor Palestinian journalists, Haniyeh said that Hamas intended to focus more attention on the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem, and the West Bank.
He praised the ongoing wave of terror attacks, urging the journalists to “protect the intifada and its culture and grievances.”